Christian Horner described the "rollercoaster" of Red Bull's Azerbaijan Grand Prix success as Sergio Perez revealed he almost followed team-mate Max Verstappen out of the race.

Red Bull claimed consecutive wins for just the second time in the Hybrid Era, but it was Perez rather than Verstappen who led them to glory.

Verstappen was in complete control and set to head a Red Bull one-two when his left-rear tyre blew out in the closing stages. The same issue had ruled out Lance Stroll of Aston Martin.

That left the door open for title rival Lewis Hamilton to profit, but an error from the defending champion from the restart allowed Perez to race clear.

Red Bull boss Horner told Sky Sports: "I think I've aged about 20 years.

"We were staring down the barrel of our first one-two since 2016. Everything in control, we'd just checked in with Max, all okay, and then boom.

"The tyre went, and we don't know why. It looked like the wear was in good shape, so whether it's debris or something has happened.

"You can see it's a big place to have an accident. Thankfully, he's okay."

He added: "We were feeling at that point like the world had dropped from under us."

Worse might have been to come for Red Bull as Perez finished the race but then immediately broke down, receiving frantic messages over the radio as he celebrated his first victory for the team.

The Mexican, who has five consecutive top-five finishes for the first time in his career, said: "I'm so, so happy for today. Normally, Baku is pretty crazy.

"First of all, I have to say for Max I'm sorry. He did a tremendous race and really deserved the win, and it would have been incredible to get that one-two for the team.

"But at the end, it is a fantastic day for us. We were close to retiring the car but, luckily, we were able to finish the race. It was quite difficult all the way in the end."

Horner lauded Perez, whose victory moved Red Bull 26 points clear in the constructors' championship on a day Mercedes failed to score.

"He's a wily driver, a canny racer. He races really, really well," Horner said.

"We went from the despair of 'We've lost Max, we're going to lose the championship lead, Lewis could pass him at the restart and win the race'.

"It just shows the rollercoaster you go through in this sport.

"Suddenly it not being quite so bad, we've actually maintained the same lead in the drivers' championship leaving here and extended the constructors'."

Red Bull dedicated the victory to Mansour Ojjeh, the McLaren shareholder who passed away ahead of the race.

"He had the biggest heart and always carried the biggest smile," ex-McLaren man Hamilton posted on Twitter. "I am so grateful to have known such a man."

Remarkable late drama at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Sergio Perez handed victory after Max Verstappen crashed out and title rival Lewis Hamilton incredibly finished outside the points.

Verstappen looked to be coasting to a second consecutive Formula One win and seventh straight podium – both career firsts.

The Red Bull driver, four points ahead of Hamilton in the standings prior to the race, was well in the clear after earlier benefitting from a slow Hamilton pit stop.

But Verstappen's left-rear tyre blew out and ended his race, prompting the furious Dutchman to kick his car in anger.

Lance Stroll had encountered the same issue with the hard Pirelli tyres, swerving out of control when he had been fourth, albeit without pitting.

A red flag – requested by a concerned Red Bull team – followed Verstappen's crash with just three laps remaining, meaning a standing start with Perez ahead of Hamilton on the front row of the grid following the delay.

In another twist, Hamilton and his smoking brakes careered off the circuit from the restart and Perez raced away to lift Red Bull spirits.

With Hamilton way back in 15th, it meant a positive end to the day for Verstappen's team, even if the season leader will continue to rue his misfortune.

Both Verstappen and Perez jumped ahead of Hamilton when he was delayed in the pit lane by Pierre Gasly, having quickly caught pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.

Stroll's mishap threw a spanner in the works, yet Verstappen pulled ahead clear from the restart following the safety car, with Perez again getting the better of Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel's climb to fourth and attempt to reel in old foe Hamilton looked the most likely source of intrigue in the closing stages, only for Verstappen's blow to bring the race to a standstill.

Hamilton admitted his error when his restart sensationally failed, though, and Perez hung on, his car breaking down moments after crossing the line before Vettel – who achieved a first Aston Martin podium.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would like to see team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner don boxing gloves to settle their differences.

Hamilton and Verstappen are engaged in a title tussle in Formula One but have so far maintained pleasantries off the track in front of the media.

The same cannot be said for Mercedes chief Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Horner.

When Horner this week suggested his opposite number "keep [his] mouth shut" as the Silver Arrows struggled in practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Wolff fired back that the Red Bull boss was "a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera".

For Hamilton, who qualified in second, and Verstappen, in third, the row was the source of some amusement in Baku on Saturday.

"We should get them in a ring," Hamilton offered.

Verstappen added: "Yeah, but I think the weight division is a bit of a problem. In the height, the reach...

"I mean I'm all for a ring anyway, even in Formula One – instead of penalties!"

Pressed for further comment, Verstappen said: "It's Formula One. There are a lot of stakes involved so everyone wants to win, everyone is competitive.

"I guess it's just a natural thing and it's good for people to read, right? A bit of fire behind it."

Hamilton said: "Naturally, they're the two top leaders of the teams and they've both contributed hugely to the success of both teams.

"[They are] great leaders and of course they're head to head because we are head to head in this tight battle. We generally just like to do our talking on the track, so we're just keeping our heads down."

Hamilton did just that in qualifying, although he had not anticipated such a competitive display.

The defending champion was seventh in FP1, 11th in FP2 and "still pretty much a disaster" in third in FP3.

However, Hamilton was only denied a 101st career pole by Charles Leclerc, who again profited from a late red flag – this time caused by an incident involving team-mate Carlos Sainz, having himself crashed last time out.

"Honestly, it's one of the greatest feelings for us, for the difficult experience we've gone through and being out of the top 10 all weekend and really struggling to understand and extract performance from our car," Hamilton said.

"It feels fantastic. Congratulations to Charles, who did a fantastic job given the difficult circumstances out there.

"Yeah, it's just a bit overwhelming, really happy to be up here, grateful to have got the lap in, and it puts us in for a much different race than we anticipated after yesterday."

Verstappen was less impressed by how qualifying panned out, bemoaning "all this s*** all the time happening" when the session was cut short.

With Red Bull concurrently leading both the drivers' championship and the constructors' championship for the first time since 2013, Verstappen is looking for the first back-to-back wins of his career.

Not since the Hybrid Era began in 2014 have his team had two victories in a row.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris, a distant third in the standings, will start from P9 due to a three-place grid penalty.

Norris, who has earned points at a career-best 10 consecutive races, qualified in sixth but was deemed to have continued on the track under one of the session's record-equalling four red flags.

Rafael Nadal set another French Open record and hit one more grand slam milestone with victory on Saturday, while world number one Novak Djokovic also progressed at Roland Garros.

Nadal, a 13-time French Open champion, reached the last 16 of the tournament for a record 16th time by beating Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-3 6-3.

It marks the 50th time Nadal has made it through to the fourth round of a grand slam in his outstanding career. Djokovic is second on the all-time list with 54 appearances in the last 16 of a major – behind only Roger Federer - after he saw off Ricardas Berankis 6-1 6-4 6-1 in just 92 minutes.

While Nadal is set for a repeat of last year's quarter-final against Jannik Sinner, top seed Djokovic will be taking on another promising youngster in the form of Lorenzo Musetti.

DJOKOVIC THRILLED WITH HAMILTON COMPARISON

Djokovic is yet to drop a set at Roland Garros in 2021, with last year's beaten finalist – who is well on course to meet up with his old foe Nadal in the last four this time around – looking every bit worthy of his status as top seed.

His dominant display against Berankis drew comparisons, from one commentator at least, to Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"It's like the dominance of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team. Berankis is a great driver, he maximises everything under the hood. But Novak Djokovic is driving a completely different race car," said former French Open champion Jim Courier.

"Berankis can't do the same things. On the same track, he can't race the same. Novak can drive how he wants."

It was a comparison which delighted Djokovic.

"Well, I'm honoured to be compared to Lewis. I respect Lewis and everything he does in his career, but also, off the track with his activism," said the 34-year-old, who is hunting a 19th major win. "Something that truly inspires me and a lot of athletes.

"I don't want to talk about my driving next to Lewis' name. Honestly, it's embarrassing to speak about my driving, and in the same sentence with Hamilton! But the analogy and the comparison of my game with an F1 car, it's definitely something that pleases me."

NADAL ENJOYING ROLAND GARROS BACKING

Given his sensational achievements in Paris down the years, it is no surprise that Nadal feels right at home whenever he returns to Roland Garros.

There were, of course, no fans allowed into the stands last year, but a limited number of spectators, including his family, are on hand to cheer him on once more this time.

"It is true that for the last year and a half it has been difficult for every player, although I didn't play so much," Nadal said.

"Those who have been travelling week after week without the chance to have family and a full team with them is very tough. They have been challenging conditions.

"For me it is very important to have the team and family behind me, because of them I am what I am today. I'm happy to have crowds, that is so important for us."

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Though the era of dominance enjoyed by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is only just starting to show signs of slowing down – albeit they still monopolise the grand slams – round four is going to throw up two fascinating contests.

Sinner came up against Nadal in the 2020 quarter-finals, and the Italian will be looking to cause an almighty upset this time around after overcoming Mikael Ymer.

Joining Sinner in the last 16 is his compatriot and fellow teenager Musetti, who has the small task of taking on the world's best player following a hard-fought victory over Marco Cecchinato.

It is the first time two teenagers have reached the fourth round at Roland Garros since Djokovic and Gael Monfils did so in 2006.

Charles Leclerc joked "it was quite a s*** lap" after he clinched pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen.

In a qualifying session littered with crashes on Saturday, it was Ferrari's Leclerc who came out on top, recording a time of one minute and 41.218 seconds.

The frantic session on the streets of Baku saw four red flags raised, equalling the record for the most in qualifying, which was set ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2016.

Indeed, it was the fourth red flag which all but sealed Leclerc's pole, his second in a row after he started at the front of the grid in Monaco last time out – he is the first driver to take back-to-back poles this season.

World champion Hamilton struggled in practice, but was second when Yuki Tsunoda's crash into the barriers ended qualifying and came in a tenth of a second quicker than Verstappen, who had crashed out in the final practice session.

Leclerc was not best pleased with his efforts, but had no qualms about securing pole.

"It was quite a s*** lap I thought!" Leclerc, who set his fastest time with the help of a slipstream from Hamilton, joked to Sky Sports.

"There were like two or three corners where I did mistakes, but of course I had the big tow from Lewis in the last sector which helped me a little bit.

"But overall I think we would have been there or thereabouts for pole without the slipstream, so it's a good day. I did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. I was improving again [before] the red flag but it's like this, another pole, and I'm happy anyway."

Meanwhile, Hamilton was left to reflect on what he labelled a "monumental" result for Mercedes, with the team having struggled throughout the week – indeed, Valtteri Bottas will start in 10th on Sunday.

"We definitely weren't expecting that and this is such a monumental result for us because we've been struggling like you couldn't believe all weekend. You can see it," Hamilton said.

"We kept our composure. We've continued to have difficult discussions in the background and challenging one another, and just never taking no for an answer. We've moved around, made so many changes, over these two days. Just chasing our tail and it's been so difficult.

"It has been the biggest challenge in a long time. It has been a bit of a disaster."

Verstappen won in Monaco, with Red Bull aiming for consecutive race victories for the first time since 2014, but the young Dutchman could not hide his frustration with how the session panned out.

"It was just a stupid qualifying to be honest, but it is what it is," he said. "It's a street circuit so these things can happen, our car is strong so hopefully tomorrow we can score good points."

Pierre Gasly was in fine form during practice and took the momentum into qualifying, clinching fourth on the grid, while Carlos Sainz completed an impressive showing from Ferrari by coming in fifth.

The day ultimately belonged to Leclerc, who will be hoping for better luck than he had in Monaco, when a mechanical issue meant he could not build on his pole position and had to drop out of the race.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:41.218
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.232s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.345s
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.347s
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.358s
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.529s
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.699s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +0.993s
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.109s
10. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1.441s

Lewis Hamilton is not confident Mercedes will quickly bounce back from a difficult day at the Monaco Grand Prix where he lost the lead in the drivers' standings.

The defending Formula One champion had a 14-point advantage over second-placed Max Verstappen heading into Sunday's race.

But Hamilton, who had to settle for seventh in qualifying, was never in contention as Verstappen triumphed to move four points clear.

The Briton might still have limited the damage, but Mercedes endured a particularly tough time in the pit lane.

Sebastian Vettel stole ahead of Hamilton and Pierre Gasly when the three pitted, pushing the Silver Arrows superstar down the field, while team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to retire from second when mechanics failed to remove his front-right wheel.

"We do all our discussions in the background. We'll work together and try to come out of this stronger," Hamilton told Sky Sports.

"We underperformed as a team all weekend, from the get-go. We'll just put our focus onto the next race, and congratulations to Max and his team. They did a great job."

Although Hamilton is keen to look ahead to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he does not expect the trip to Baku to see Mercedes' fortunes change significantly for the better.

"I would be guessing, but it's another street circuit, another one that's really cold, a very smooth circuit," he said.

"It's another one that we could easily struggle at again – similar to here. We're just going to have to try to work and see how we can minimise that loss."

This is the first time in Verstappen's career he has led the championship, but he agrees Mercedes are better suited to "normal tracks" and so is not getting carried away.

"If it [his name] is there at the end of the season, that would be great," Verstappen told a news conference. "There's still a long way to go.

"Of course it's great to bounce back after the last two races, where of course the gap got bigger. We still have to work hard because we know Mercedes, on normal tracks, are still the ones to beat."

Verstappen had never previously had a podium at Monaco – "I've always been quick around Monaco, I've just shunted a few too many times," he argued – but says this improved display is not reason to be overly optimistic in Baku.

"Baku is a completely different circuit," he said, adding: "You can't really compare with each other, but normally we should be competitive."

Max Verstappen went top of the Formula One drivers' standings for the first time in his career but admits he faces a huge fight to stay ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull star earned a maiden Monaco Grand Prix victory as Hamilton trailed in seventh, with the Mercedes team as a whole enduring a desperate day.

Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire from the race while running second when the pit crew were unable to remove a tyre, with Verstappen and fourth-placed Sergio Perez nudging Red Bull above Mercedes at the summit of the constructors' standings.

Neither Verstappen nor his team would be presumptuous enough to suggest this changing of the guard at the top of each championship is anything but potentially fleeting though, given the margins are so tight and this was just the fifth stop-off in a 23-race season.

"It's so special around here to win and to be for the first time on the podium here," Verstappen said. "It's an amazing race and you really have to keep your focus, but it's really cool.

"You never know what's going to happen, but it was all about looking after your tyres and finding a good stop gap of course. The others went earlier so that made it a bit easier for me, but it was pretty much in control.

"Of course you always want to win this grand prix. I remember when I was very little watching this grand prix and to be standing here of course I'm very proud.

"But I'm also thinking ahead. It's still a very long season, but this is a great way to continue."

Hamilton has won the last four championships and six of the last seven, while Mercedes are chasing an eighth consecutive team title.

They will have many better Sundays in the coming months, and a team statement on Twitter summed up their dismay at the Monaco outcome.

The statement said: "Tough one to swallow. This has been one of our hardest days as a team in a very long time. We have to accept it, own the failure, learn from it and move on from here."

Carlos Sainz finished second, with Verstappen keeping the Spaniard at a safe distance.

It was close to a nine-second gap at the finish, as Sainz delivered for a Ferrari side who had to stomach the pre-race blow of withdrawing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.

Monaco native Leclerc majorly damaged his car with a heavy crash in qualifying, and despite subsequent assurances that he would be on the grid, Ferrari changed their minds just minutes before the race began, citing a problem with the left driveshaft.

As Leclerc licked his wounds, Sainz delivered a sterling drive for his first Ferrari podium finish. Even then, it felt bittersweet.

"It is a good result," said the 26-year-old Spaniard. "If you had told me before coming to Monaco that I would finish second, I would definitely have taken that.

"It's just the whole circumstances of the weekend, having Charles on pole, me missing out in qualifying yesterday on a good lap, it just maybe doesn't taste as good as it should.

"But if I reflect back in the week I will be very happy and proud of the weekend. And I think Ferrari as a team need to be proud about the team and the step they've done this year.

"When you see the other car not starting from pole, all of a sudden the responsibility relies on you, trying to salvage the weekend. I felt the team deserved at least a podium this weekend."

Third place went to Lando Norris, whose McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, a former winner in Monaco, could only finish in a lowly 12th place.

"I didn't think I'd be here," Norris said, at his post-race interview. "It's always a dream to be on a podium here.

"It's extra special, I didn't think it was going to happen. It's special here, so I'll cherish it."

Max Verstappen roared to victory at the Monaco Grand Prix and jumped above reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton at the top of the drivers' standings.

The Red Bull driver benefited from the shock withdrawal of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc ahead of the race, producing an immaculate drive to stay out of trouble and finish ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.

McLaren's Lando Norris completed the podium, securing his second third place of the season, with Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly all coming home ahead of Hamilton, who trailed in a distant seventh.

The outcome saw Verstappen, thanks to his first Monaco triumph, move four points in front of Hamilton after five rounds of the 23-race championship. He leads the championship for the first time in his career, a further sign that Hamilton could face a major battle to cling to his crown as he chases a record-breaking eighth title.

Just 20 minutes before the race began, Ferrari dropped the bombshell that Leclerc had been ruled out due to a driveshaft problem.

It was a crushing blow for the Monegasque driver, whose pole was secured in dramatic fashion on Saturday when he crashed his Ferrari in the final minute of qualifying, denying his rivals a clear track and the chance to set a faster time. Leclerc feared gearbox trouble but was initially given the all-clear to race, until he was pulled from the line-up.

What it meant was that Verstappen, second on the grid, had the chance to gain the early ascendancy on the tight circuit where he had never previously achieved a podium finish, and he demonstrated his prowess as a front-runner.

Valtteri Bottas was sitting second when the Finn pitted on the 31st lap, and he joined Leclerc in the bad-luck club when Mercedes were unable to remove his front-right wheel. After a desperate minute of waiting, Bottas climbed out of his car, his race over.

Sebastian Vettel managed to get ahead of Pierre Gasly and Hamilton when the three pitted, the Aston Martin going almost wheel to wheel with Gasly's Alpha Tauri as he completed a stunning overcut.

That moment imperilled Hamilton's leadership of the championship, putting him down in seventh place, as Mercedes suffered a miserable couple of minutes. 

It proved the last major twist of the race, with Hamilton securing a bonus point for a late fastest lap. Small consolation on a dismal day for Mercedes, as Verstappen and Perez's performance also saw Red Bull go ahead of the Silver Arrows in the constructors' standings.

Charles Leclerc's chances of starting his home grand prix in pole position appeared to have received a boost on Saturday, with Ferrari finding no gearbox damage in initial checks.

Leclerc took pole for the Monaco Grand Prix in dramatic circumstances earlier in the day when he crashed while top of the timesheets.

The crash forced qualifying to be halted early. Leclerc flicked off one barrier and went hurtling into another just as his rivals – including second-placed Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in third – seemed ready to mount a challenge in the closing moments of the session.

Leclerc admitted he was worried the impact and the damage to his car may mean its gearbox required replacing, which would see him given a grid penalty.

However, tests conducted by Ferrari found no "serious damage" to the gearbox, though further checks will be carried out on Sunday to ensure it is useable.

This update came after the post-qualifying news conference, in which Leclerc said: "I have mixed feelings a little bit, because with the crash I don’t know where I’m starting tomorrow yet. It depends on the damage on the car."

It was the first time Leclerc had made it to Q3 on his home circuit.

"Well, it didn't feel great to go Q3, as at least we were expecting to go through to Q3," he said.

"It would have been a big disappointment if I was not going into Q3, 2019 was a hard one to take as we definitely had the potential to be up there but we couldn't finalise it after the mistake we have done in Q1. Hopefully we will end up this weekend on a high, which never happened at home."

Meanwhile, two weeks after securing a 100th pole position of his Formula One career, championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for seventh on the grid.

"[The car] didn't feel too bad on Thursday, and then we made some changes and it felt pretty terrible today, so of course we go back to the drawing board," Hamilton said.

"I think from my point I just had such a lack of grip out there, which then leads you to overdrive and start trying to get more from it to no end – it doesn't improve.

"Today was a question of tyres, the tyres were just not working. I was sliding around. I've not spoken to the engineers just yet. Valtteri did a better job at the end of the day."

Hamilton's poor run means that title challenger Verstappen is well placed to take advantage.

"It's always important to score a lot of points, but of course you need to be ahead of your main rivals as much as you can," said the Red Bull driver.

"So today was good – but of course we need to finish that off tomorrow."

Charles Leclerc took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix in dramatic circumstances as the Monegasque driver crashed while top of the timesheets, bringing an early end to qualifying.

Ferrari driver Leclerc flicked off one barrier and crunched his car into another just as his rivals were building up to challenge his supremacy in the final minute of the session.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for seventh on the grid, a fortnight after registering his 100th career pole.

Leclerc admitted he was worried the impact and the damage to his car may mean its gearbox needs replacing, which would see him given a five-place grid penalty and hand over pole to Max Verstappen.

"I am [worried], but let's see," Leclerc said.

Reflecting on the sudden end to Q3, Leclerc said: "It's a shame to finish in the wall. It doesn't feel the same, but at the same time I'm incredibly happy about my first-time lap.

"The first corner was quite tricky. I didn't do a great first corner, but then in the second and third sector I nailed it. I'm just very, very happy to be on pole.

"It was very, very difficult to manage myself mentally after Q2 – I could feel I was quite emotional in the car, but I told myself, 'now it's Q3 and it's time to put everything together', and I managed to do so."

Behind Leclerc and Red Bull's Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas took third place in qualifying for Mercedes, one spot ahead of Leclerc's Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc might have left his fellow drivers frustrated with the timing of his crash, but the 23-year-old said: "I'm incredibly happy. It's tomorrow that we score points, but I have to say that is a big surprise for everyone to be on pole and in fourth place for tomorrow.

"I've always been very unlucky here, so let's wait and see."

Verstappen may have been primed to snatch pole from Leclerc on his final lap and said: "It was unfortunate, of course, with the red flag. I felt really comfortable. It was all going really well, but of course the red flag ruined the chance for pole, but we'll see.

"You always plan around the best possible strategy and it was working out well – it's just a shame about the red flag."

Leclerc has been on pole seven times previously in his career but has yet to experience any success in Formula One at his home track.

Bottas was another driver frustrated to miss out on a clear final lap.

"For me it's disappointing I didn't get my last run with the red flag, but that's how it is sometimes," Bottas said. "I left everything out there for the last run.

"The first run [in Q3] wasn't enough for pole, but in the second run with the first lap we did I was feeling good, I was quite a bit down on my lap time so I'm gutted.

"I think we made good progress throughout the weekend with the car. We should have had a shot at pole with the last run, so we'll try everything we can tomorrow with the race. It's Monaco; anything can happen."

Fernando Alonso, a two-time former winner of this race, was knocked out in Q1 after managing only the 17th quickest lap.

Alonso, once a Ferrari driver but now at Alpine, said on BBC 5 Live: "Confidence was good. I was able to push the car and extract the maximum. We didn't have the pace. The whole weekend we've been struggling a little with the pace.

"We would have expected more from Monaco on our package but we didn't deliver. The race is going to be difficult, starting at the back, but let's see what we can do."

Lando Norris qualified fifth in the McLaren, but team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was a lowly 12th, while Pierre Gasly also finished ahead of Hamilton, taking sixth place.

Mick Schumacher, whose father Michael won this race five times, suffered a major blow in final practice when his Haas clattered heavily into roadside barriers after emerging from Casino Square.

Schumacher was not injured, but his team reported "chassis damage" to the sorry-looking car and pulled the 22-year-old out of qualifying.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:10.346
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.230s
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.255
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.265
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.274
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.554
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.749
8. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.073
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1.227
10. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1.433

Lance Stroll acknowledged Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has proven his talent in tussles with team-mate Valtteri Bottas, even if his Mercedes gives him an advantage over the rest of the grid.

Hamilton has won a record-equalling seven drivers' championships, including six of the past seven with Mercedes.

Former team-mate Nico Rosberg won the title in 2016 when Hamilton faltered, meaning the Silver Arrows have accounted for seven straight triumphs, matching that streak in the constructors' championship.

Mercedes' advantage with a consistently excellent car is clear, as Stroll highlighted this season when he said: "If you put Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren, he won't win the race."

However, speaking to Stats Perform, the Aston Martin driver explained there is still no doubting Hamilton's ability.

Besides Rosberg's five-point 2016 triumph, the Briton has beaten his Mercedes team-mate in every season since he joined the team in 2013.

"You still have to beat your team-mate," Stroll told Stats Perform. "For example, in Mercedes, Lewis has Valtteri and he managed to win the title for so many years.

"You've still got to deliver every weekend and fight up in the front. He has been able to do that.

"But there is no doubt that having a good car makes the difference in the way you finish. This is the story of F1, that's how it has been for a long time and it still is."

Aston Martin, backed by Stroll's father Lawrence, earned only five points in the first four races in 2021 – none of them supplied by new signing Sebastian Vettel – following changes to car regulations that Hamilton has suggested were "done to peg [Mercedes] back".

Stroll, whose low-rake car uses a Mercedes power unit, said: "Last year, at the beginning, we were more competitive, but now, with new regulations, things are a bit different."

He does, however, enjoy being paired with four-time champion Vettel, adding: "It is great working with Seb.

"He is an incredible talent with great experience. He is a great team-mate I and look forward to working with him for the rest of the season."

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have all the momentum heading into the iconic Monaco Grand Prix this week.

Despite Red Bull starting the 2021 Formula One season with the fastest car, Hamilton has produced a spectacular start and holds a 14-point lead over Max Verstappen in the drivers' standings.

The seven-time world champion has won three of the first four races and battled back to finish second at Imola in the only grand prix he did not win, making a fantastic recovery after crashing.

Verstappen has made him work hard for those successes, but more is needed from Valtteri Bottas as questions continue over his future with the team. He is yet to record a top-two finish and Hamilton already has double his points total.

Rivals to Hamilton will hope the unpredictability of Monaco will boost their hopes to challenge. Three different teams have won the last three races here, Ferrari in 2017, Red Bull in 2018 and Mercedes with Hamilton last time out in 2019.

Red Bull are expected to be strong here and the team are 18 points away from making this circuit the one where they have collected the most points in their F1 history.

Monaco is the shortest circuit (3.34km) on the calendar and therefore is the grand prix with the highest number of laps (78).

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton continued his dominance of the Spanish Grand Prix with a record-equalling sixth victory at the Barcelona circuit as Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat.

Verstappen passed Hamilton on Turn One in a dream start for Red Bull after the defending champion had been on pole for the 100th time.

But Hamilton was not to be denied a fifth consecutive win at the race, pitting first and later passing Verstappen on fresher tyres in lap 60 of 66 in another masterclass from the Briton.

Verstappen – who got the fastest lap - had been kept out at the front and was unable to hold out, having to settle for second place ahead of Bottas.

Charles Leclerc was fourth ahead of the Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN MONACO

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes Red Bull are the team to beat this week, even though Hamilton held off Verstappen in a thrilling 2019 duel in Monte Carlo.

He feels the high-downforce track plays to Red Bull's strengths and thinks data from the last sector of the race in Spain – which showed their rivals were strong – will prove an accurate indicator of Monaco pace.

Wolff also defended Bottas, insisting bad luck and slow starts were the only reason for his disappointing results.

Despite the season being four races old, he is regularly having to rebuff speculation about Mercedes moving on from the Finn.

Sergio Perez, meanwhile, is not under that level of scrutiny for Red Bull yet, but is still waiting for his first podium this season.

Charles Leclerc goes into his home race in impressive form. He has four consecutive top-six finishes and thinks Ferrari will be challenging for race wins again "very soon" after a strong start to 2021.

Lando Norris, who is fourth in the championship, goes into the race on a high after signing a new deal with McLaren.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Pole pivotal – The driver starting first has led after the opening lap for each of the last 17 Monaco GPs since 2002 when McLaren driver David Coulthard passed Williams star Juan Pablo Montoya. Since 2004, 12 of the last 16 who started on pole have won the race (75 per cent).

Mercedes momentum – The Mercs are looking to equal Ferrari as the team to have recorded the most one-twos in a F1 qualifying ever (80). They are the only team ever to have won more than half of their races (118 wins in 231 GPs).

Familiar faces - Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas have reached the podium together in 16 races, more than any other trio in F1 ever. That has also been the top three for four of the last five GPs.

Racy Red Bull – Christian Horner's outfit have taken five pole positions in Monaco, more than at any other GP for them in F1 alongside Japan. Only in Brazil and Malaysia (five at each), they have won more races than in the Principality. 

Fabulous Finns - Bottas could equal Kimi Raikkonen in a tie for second among Finnish drivers with the most pole positions in F1 (18), after Mika Hakkinen (26). 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 94
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 80
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 47
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 41
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 40

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 141
2. Red Bull – 112
3. McLaren – 65
4. Ferrari – 60
5. Alpine – 15

Lewis Hamilton was elated that a "good gamble" from Mercedes paid off and said his Spanish Grand Prix victory was an example of the "great trust" in the team.

Hamilton extended his championship lead to 14 points with a third win in four races this season despite being passed by Max Verstappen at Turn One on the opening lap.

Verstappen led for much of the race, but had to settle for second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas after Hamilton overtook him with six laps to go at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat, with Hamilton called in for a second set of medium tyres on lap 43 of 66 and returning in third place with over 20 seconds to make up on leader Verstappen.

Verstappen had only pitted once and he was reeled in by the seven-time Formula One world champion, who also had to pass Bottas before regaining the lead.

Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's record of six Spanish Grand Prix triumphs by winning the race for a fifth consecutive season and he paid tribute to his team.

"First I want to acknowledge the fans that are here," said Hamilton. "It is great to see. I saw a British flag out there, which I haven't seen for a long, long time.

"I feel great after this. I feel like I could go again."

Hamilton added: "I was so close [behind Verstappen] for so long but just managed to keep the tyres in somehow. It was a long way to come back [after the second stop] but it was a good gamble - a really great strategy from the team.

"I was about to get a shot to get past him as I pitted. I was really conflicted - 'do I come in or ignore the call'. I did what the team asked because there is a great trust between us. Remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day."

Verstappen knew it was only a matter of time before he was caught by Hamilton, who managed his tyres to perfection in another masterful drive that took his tally of F1 wins to 98.

"In a way I could see it coming," said the Dutchman, who secured another point by clocking the fastest lap after finally pitting again from second place with Hamilton easing to victory. 

"Already at the end with the softs, he [Hamilton] was faster and when he put on the mediums, he had a lot more pace. There was not much we could've done.

"Then they went for another stop and I knew it was over because I was already struggling with the tyres and you could see every lap, he was getting closer and closer. Bit of a sitting duck.

"With the cars behind, you don't want to pit in traffic, but it makes a clear advantage when there is more pace in the car. If we would have jumped for another stop, I'm not sure we would've caught up again. I tried everything I could.

"We're not where we want to be and we still need to push hard and catch up because at the moment we are a little bit slower. But compared to last year, it has been a jump for us."

Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance of the Spanish Grand Prix with a record-equalling victory as Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat.

Max Verstappen passed Hamilton on Turn One in a dream start for Red Bull after the seven-time Formula One champion had been on pole for the 100th time.

Championship leader Hamilton was not to be denied a fifth consecutive win in the race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, though, passing Verstappen on lap 60 of 66 in another masterclass from the Briton.

Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton for a second set of medium tyres on lap 43 paid off, with Verstappen having been kept out at the front and having to settle for second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton managed his tyres to perfection to extend his championship lead, as well as matching Michael Schumacher's record of six Spanish Grand Prix triumphs to make it three wins out of four this season.

A late fastest lap for Verstappen provided a small consolation but he now trails in the standings by 14 points.

Verstappen had made a brilliantly bold move to pass Hamilton on the inside, the pair coming within a whisker of making contact. Red Bull's start then got even better when Ferrari's Charles Leclerc nipped ahead of Bottas on the outside at Turn Three on the opening lap.

Verstappen retained his advantage after the safety car was deployed following Yuki Tsunoda's retirement due to a fuel pressure issue on lap eight, but a poor pit stop was a setback for the Dutchman on lap 24.

Hamilton stayed out four laps longer than his rival on the soft compounds and the Brit returned with a gap of around six seconds to make up.

The reigning champion was right on the back of Verstappen when he was called in for a second time, returning in third place behind also Bottas - who had passed Leclerc - and 23 seconds behind the leader.

Bottas allowed Hamilton to go by him on lap 52, but not before the Finn showed a reluctance to follow team orders.

Hamilton moved back in front six laps from the end, Verstappen unable to prevent him from going around the outside as the Mercedes eased away.

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